Near the end of Author! Author!, Al Pacino’s character, an Armenian playwright named Ivan Travalian, is slumped backstage at the premiere of his troubled play, anxiously listening to the audience.
“They didn’t laugh,” he says. “They aren’t laughing.”
You wonder now if Pacino himself knew he was forecasting the audience’s reaction to the film.
There’s not a laugh to be found in Author! Author!, a supposed “comedy” from 1982 that ran deep in the evening on AMC this week.
So many things run wrong with this film, from the script, to the casting, to the editing, that it’s a minor miracle it exists in any sort of form to run late-night on a cable channel.
You might start with the fact that Pacino plays an Armenian playwright named Ivan Trevalian. “I don’t think I have ever met an Armenian before,” one character says to him. “It’s easy,” he replies, “all Armenian names rhyme with Armenian.”
We’ve already lauded Al’s willingness to stretch as an actor and here he was in a period where he was really pushing the limits, perhaps tired of the street-wise, world weary roles that had made him a star. He had famously starred as a cop who goes undercover in the gay underworld in Cruising. (This enraged family values groups and gay-rights groups both at the time.) And he had not yet appeared in his own personal Heaven’s Gate, a career-killing historical film called Revolution, that, frankly, I remain terrified to see. And his next film would be a modest, subtle little film called Scarface.
So it was only natural that Pacino would sign on to appear in a comedy about a neurotic New York playwright who lives in a chaotic household with six children to whom he serves as a largely surrogate father.